Between November 2019 and February 2020, the NRMA Insurance helicopter flew for more than 110 days and clocked up more than 400 hours, supporting the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) during the Black Summer bushfires. And while NSW has welcomed a quieter fire season this summer, the crew hasn’t let their guard down – ensuring the chopper is in top condition and ready to hit the skies as soon as it’s needed.
So far this summer, the NRMA Insurance helicopter has been called out twice: to Cessnock in late November and Bathurst in early December, where they were on standby to help the RFS protect homes and other community assets threatened by fires.
Owner of EPS Helicopter Services, Geoff Sprod, who has partnered with NRMA Insurance since 2017 to operate the NRMA Insurance helicopter said: “Our crews are on standby at Bankstown Airport, seven days a week throughout fire season, which is late November until the end of February. And when we receive a dispatch from the RFS, we’re in the air within 15 minutes.”
The helicopter is a specialised firefighting aircraft with a dual capability: along with waterbombing, it sprays a new biodegradable, non-toxic fire retardant which can be used to fight a fire or protect homes and properties in the path of a bushfire for up to two weeks after it’s deployed. When there is a fire, the NSW RFS determine when and where the helicopter is deployed and how the fire retardant will be used to ensure it helps communities most in need of protection.
“At the start of every day, we do a pre-flight inspection. And if we haven’t flown during the seven days prior, we take the helicopter up for a 30-minute maintenance flight,” Geoff said.
“During the maintenance flight, the crew tests all the aircraft systems to make sure they’re fully functional and the helicopter is operational.”
IAG has a long history of supporting communities through our brands, to prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters, including bushfires.
In addition to donating the NRMA Insurance helicopter, we’ve teamed up with NSW Rural Fire Service, NSW State Emergency Service and The Australian Red Cross to launch the NRMA Insurance First Saturday campaign. Through the campaign, we encourage Australians to set aside one weekend a month to complete small tasks to make their homes safer and help protect against natural disasters, including bushfires.
Visit nrma.com.au/firstsaturday for more information about the First Saturday campaign